Support groups have an important role in the management of mental illness. People support each other on an equal basis to offer something based on shared experiences. It has a long and honourable history. People create a space that is open, allowing for sharing from the heart. It can happen in all sorts of places, in one-to-one settings and in groups. Within local communities these groups can be a basis for campaigning and activism.
Peer support offers many benefits, for example: shared identity and acceptance, increased self-confidence, the value of helping others, developing and sharing skills, improved mental health, emotional resilience and wellbeing, information and signposting, challenging stigma and discrimination.
For the last 8 months I have been attending SOBS meetings once or twice every month. (Survivors Of Bereavement through Suicide).
I have met some wonderful people there, learnt a lot and found solace in knowing that I am not the only one who is in so much pain that I think I am loosing my mind. To my utter surprise some other people in the group have found my sharing useful.
On the International Suicide Prevention day (10th September 2015) we held a vigil at Hyde Park in London remembering our loved ones. This is what one of the bereaved parents wrote:
Private grief in public places
“Private grief in public places: that is
What it was; us sitting on the grass
And cotton-wool clouds, sparse
But tinged with gold, drifting out west
This September 6 o’clock.
We tried our best
To look serious, solemn as one wiped a tear
As some of us shared our private grief without fear.
Yes dear, yes. We know the pain as we move a chair,
Was it his, or her, footstep on the stair?
Or the comb on the floor,
Near the bathroom door;
And the cyclists sliding silently beyond the trees
And the buses, and coaches, trucks and cars.
Are they all going home
While we sit on the grass recalling….?
What were we recalling;
The traces of grief
On the faces or the shoe-laces undone?
The yellow ‘candlelings’ on the grass twinkling
Like in some forgotten ritual of yonder years.
No, we do not forget
Nor forgo the pain we feel;
The frog in the throat
Nor the remembered smile in the wind,
And this gathering of strangers
Now bonded with a common theme.
So thank you friends, thank you,
For helping me off the ground
And sharing your pain,
Lightening my burden
Is my joyful gain.”